Wednesday, October 17, 2012

St Matthew's surprise

St. Matthew is one of those saints                                     who becomes a dear friend                                                once you get acquainted.                                                       Let's get to know him a bit better!          
St. Matthew:  I am always happy to make new friends.  You know, I didn't have very many to begin with.                            
                                                                     
Inmate of Rosary Convent:  Really?  Why is that, St. Matthew?             
St. M.: Well, I was a tax collector before I received my vocation.  And being a Jewish tax collector meant at that your people considered you a traitor to them for working on behalf of the Romans, and also that you were more than likely a cheat.                      
 I. R. C.:  But surely all the tax collectors weren't cheats?
St. M.:  I wouldn't say all; but since anything they collected over and above the set amount was theirs, and since man is prone to laziness and avarice, there was a fair bit of fraud going on.  But even if a tax collector didn't cheat, he was still seen as a bad lot.  He was working for the Romans, and the Romans meant no good to my people.  Remember that at that time, the Romans were the masters of the world, and with the fiercely independent spirit of the Jews, coupled with the promise of a Messiah Who would rule the world, the Jews were simply itching for the time when they could draw swords and follow a bold captain against those cocky young Italian centurions.  But the tax collector - well, to put it mildly, he was seen as lacking in national sentiment.  However, it was an appealing profession to broadminded people.  If you didn't mind a generous amount of sneers from your countrymen, all you had to do was set up your booth, fold your hands, and wait for the money to pour in.
 
I. R. C.:  Were you lacking in national sentiment, St. Matthew?                                                                                                                                 St. M.:  Commentators on my Gospel are always careful to point out that I was writing specifically for my own people.  If you have a look at it, you will notice that I have put in a lot of prophecies from the Old Testament relating to the Messiah, and I point out that these prophecies were fulfilled in Our Lord.  And I may say, that once I began to understand the mission of Our Lord, the more I appreciated my own peoples' history.  Remember all the holy prophets the Israelites had, all the battles that we won thanks to God's help, and as to literary achievements, well, you simply can't get much better that our own Royal Poet, King David!

I. R. C.:  St. Matthew, why do you think that people always mention you when they are talking about how important a Vocation is?      
St. M.:  That is a very good question.  I think that St. Peter, or even St. John sort of made a bigger show of sacrifice when they left their trusty fishing boats and all their nets and hooks and things behind and followed Our Lord.  I was only leaving an old desk in a dusky, noisy custom house!  Perhaps because of my particular situation at that time - that of a money-grubber.  What with so many young people today worried about getting a good job and making as much as they can, they run the risk of ignoring or simply not hearing the Master calling them to His service.  My story is perhaps particularly relevant to them.

I.R.C.:  Could you tell me your story, about when Our Lord called you, St. Matthew?
 
St. M.:  Well, it was a day like any other.  There I was sitting in the Custom house, bent over my piles of coins - I think I was in the very middle of adding up my morning's collection.  I had done rather well that day, I remember, and I was just trying to add up a whole pile of small change - you know how fiddly that is!

I. R. C.:  Yes, I do.  Fortunately I don't need to worry about money at the Convent!  That is the job of the Sister Bursar.

St. M.:  She has a responsible job - one which can try the patience sometimes.  Well, I think that I had mislaid a piece of silver and miscalculated, and was trying to figure out where I had gone wrong.  I was a bit warm under the collar - it was a hot day in any events - when all of a sudden, a shadow fell across my table.  That bothered me more still, because one likes to have as much light as possible when one is working at a desk.
 
 I. R. C.:  I have had the same feeling, studying tiny print out of a history textbook at 8:30pm when a blackout happens.
St. M.:  It's not calming to the nerves.  Anyhow, I tried to command a pleasant manner, because I sour faces are never good for business, and I looked up to see Jesus of Nazareth standing at my bench.  He had such an expression on His Face!  It was almost as though He felt sorry that I was getting so bothered over such a trifling thing as a miscalculation in small change, and He just said:  "Follow Me."
 
I.R.C:  And what did you do, St. Matthew?         
 
St. M.:  The only sensible thing - I followed Him.     
 
I.R.C:  Weren't you sorry to leave your money there?  I mean, didn't it worry you that the other tax collectors would grab all your earnings?  Didn't you even snatch up a bit of cash so that you'd at least know that your next meal would be taken care of?
St. M.:  No - have you forgotten how many times Our Lord multiplied bread?  Meals were not going to be an issue!  But really, food was far from my thoughts at that moment.  I was simply overcome at the thought that here was the one Treasure worth having, and to leave all of one's possessions in order to secure it was no sacrifice at all.

I.R.C.:  You mean like the parable of the treasure hidden in the field?
 
St. M.:  Yes - only my case was rather different.  I wasn't actually digging for the Treasure at the time - I was trying to find it in my receipt book.  The Treasure came looking for ME.  

I.R.C.:  What did you do after Our Lord ascended into Heaven, St. Matthew?  Besides writing your Gospel, I mean.
 
St. M.:  You may remember from your study of History that due to the bad feelings of the Jews towards the Infant Church, we Apostles dispersed into various far countries.  I went to Ethiopia, a region on the Horn of Africa.  It was ruled by a king whose daughter, the Princess Iphigenia, had recently died.  By the grace of God, the princess came back to life again, and consecrated herself to Our Lord as a virgin.  The king was converted to the Faith, and so was his whole kingdom. 

I.R.C:  How splendid!  Then what happened?
 
St. M.  The king died some time after that, and he was succeeded by a young man called Hirtacus.  He wanted to marry Princess Iphigenia.  However, Iphigenia refused him, since she was the spouse of Our Lord already, so he got rather upset about that, and barged into the chapel one day when I was saying Mass -
                                                          
Contarelli Chapel and Works of Caravaggio: St Matthew's call, inspiration and martyrdom
                    
I.R.C:  Why did he want to go and bother you?

St. M.:  Well, I had given Iphigenia the idea of consecrating herself to God in the first place, so he held me responsible for his disappointment.  Anyhow, Hirtacus drew his sword, and after a few nasty moments, I heard a Voice was greeting me with the words:  "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

I.R.C:  That happened on the 21st of September, didn't it?  I seem to remember that was what the Matins readings said.                                                                                                                                                     St. M.: Yes, and the 21st of September is also my feast  day.                                                                                                                                I.R.C.: I know - we celebrated it!  We even included berries in the dinner menu because the Matins readings said that that was mostly what you ate.                                                     
St. M.:  Very fitting - but you also had chocolate and things like that, I noticed!
 
I.R.C.:  Well, we figured chocolate was symbolic too, because cocoa beans grow in places like Ethiopia.

St. M.:  Oh yes, any excuse will do.  How did you like the surprise I sent you?

I.R.C.:  You mean all those boxes?  Oh, they were simply the best!  This car zoomed up our drive, and a man came and politely asked if he could have some help unloading stuff for the sisters.  There were about 8 enormous cardboard boxes - I don't know how he managed to fit them all into his boot.  We staggered into the Barn with them, and unpacked them on our table tennis table.  Some of the sisters were afraid that the table would collapse under their weight.  And inside . . .
St. M.:  Your shouts of excitement echoed right up into heaven, I do assure you.

I.R.C.:  Books!  More books than I'd ever seen outside of a bookshop!  Lovely old ones, on just about all the religious topics you'd care to mention, from piles of saints biographies, to works on the spiritual life, plus over a hundred of those A.C.T.S. pamphlets.  There was even a book on stenography!
St. M.:  I thought that it would be a rather fitting thing for the cargo from the kindly Brisbane parish to arrive at your convent on my feast day, seeing that I am a writer myself.  I hope that you remembered to say a prayer for your benefactors from there, especially Mr. Gary Wilson?
 
I.R.C.:  Yes, we did; and I'm sure we do every time we see the books neatly arranged in our library.  People are very generous to us here at Rosary Convent, St. Matthew.  Won't you say a prayer for the Brisbane parish, and all our other benefactors, too?

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